Within sight of the Black Sea city of Burgas lays a small area of land, so precious for its wildlife that it has been granted the highest possible level of International recognition and legal protection. And here the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds has its PODA Visitor Centre. Bulgaria is only a small country on our vast planet.
Occupying just a small portion of Eastern Europe it nevertheless possesses a little gem of a location that everyone who loves nature and wild places should cherish. Within sight of the Black Sea city of Burgas lays a small area of land, so precious for its wildlife that it has been granted the highest possible level of International recognition and legal protection. And here the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds has its PODA Visitor Centre.
At PODA a birder can see many species in a small area. There is no need to trek wearily mile after mile; the birds are close by and can be seen comfortably. Of course, the are good days and better days; nature does not give its performances to a timetable, but PODA will give the keen birder rarities like Pygmy cormorant and Ferruginous duck and a good list is pretty much guaranteed. For any birdwatcher visiting Bulgaria a visit to PODA is really a must!
Go there early on a Spring morning when the air is cool and fresh before the heat of the mid-day sun brings a slowdown of activity; sit on the terrace and gaze out across the waving reedbed. There is a Marsh harrier searching the reeds for breakfast; above will be Sandwich terns with their unmusical screeching cries; rare Pygmy cormorants fly past on some urgent quest and their larger cousins, the Common cormorants are busy too, raising the next generation of cormorants on long redundant electricity pylons which the birds have appropriated as nest sites in an area somewhat devoid of trees. And as you sit on the terrace with the first cup of coffee for the day perhaps you will be uplifted by the flash of turquoise from a passing Kingfisher or watch a busy Red-backed shrike flitting from bush to bush.
Long before we humans arrived on our planet this stretch of the Black Sea coast was the pathway for the amazing natural spectacle of migration. We call this ancient route the Via Pontica. Year after year countless millions of birds have used this avian motorway to travel North in Spring to their breeding territory and in even greater numbers, enhanced by the young birds making the journey for the first time, they return again in Autumn on their way to the warmth of Africa to spend the winter.
One of the best places to experience this wonder of the natural world is at PODA. It is never predictable on any particular day. Perhaps weather conditions will persuade the birds to take a day’s rest from their travels, or perhaps conditions are so perfect for the birds that their flight takes place at a great altitude out of our sight. But hope for good luck! Then you might see raptors in their thousands streaming overhead, holding their wings still, saving energy on the immense journey. There will be Eagles and Buzzards. Among them will be Hawks and Falcons. Expert observers can identify all the different species and count them. It is important for conservation to keep a good scientific record of migration activity. But for most people, it is the fascination and wonder of the spectacle which will live in the memory.
Smaller birds too migrate through PODA. One day you may chance to see uncountable numbers of Swallows, hawking over the reedbeds, frantically refuelling for the next leg of their journey. And the next day the Swallows will have gone but replaced by vast flocks of White wagtails; it is endlessly marvellous for us earthbound humans to imagine living a life carried on wings.
Thoughtless humanity has placed a thunderous motor highway tearing through PODA. One day, when we become more civilised, surely we will relocate this road and let PODA become, once again, a quiet place where we can refresh our spirits and relish the wildlife in tranquillity. PODA has been recognised internationally for its special qualities. It deserves to be a true jewel in the crown.
For more information, visit the website of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds: www.bspb.org0